Archive for the ‘J. Zel Lurie’ Category

Oren pleads for Jewish support for peace

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

By J. Zel Lurie 

J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida–The story appeared in the Jerusalem Post of September 21. It was headed  “Oren urges Jewish leaders to support peace moves.” The story described a meeting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren  held  in Washington with Israeli and Jewish reporters.
Ambassador Oren’s request that American Jewish leaders publicly support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was almost completely ignored.

Some background. Since 1948 American Jewish leaders have listened closely to the Israeli Embassy. The ambassador never had to ask for support. He described Israeli policy and Jewish leaders followed even when Israeli actions were contrary to American policy.

Support for Jewish settlements in the West Bank is a notable example. The United States has opposed every settlement as contrary to international law on occupied territory and a serious obstacle to peace . But American opposition to settlements, for political reasons, was  never forceful, and almost 300,000 Jews have settled in the West Bank.

Which explains why, for the first time, Ambassador Oren’s plea for support was greeted with silence. Even by  Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. For years he has acted as the self-appointed spokesman for Israeli policies. Now he is occupied in wiggling his opposition to the Islamic center, two blocks from ground zero. Read more…

‘We have been here before,’ said Mrs. Clinton

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By J. Zel Lurie 

J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida–When I visited Israel recently, I told my Israeli family –daughter, granddaughter and a brand new great-grandson — that they were living in a bubble of prosperity and peace. As Time reported last week the last suicide bomber was over two years ago. What was happening to the Palestinians on the other side of the wall hardly affected them.
Oddly enough, the majority of Palestinians, who live in the Palestine Authority-governed cities, with an efficient American-trained police force, are living in a similar bubble of prosperity.

Outside the two bubbles are the Arab citizens of Israel, twenty percent of the population, and the Palestinian farmers surrounding  the cities living under the confusing  and often brutal rule of the occupying Israeli army, assisted by the Jewish settlers the army is  assigned to protect.
Lying in wait, licking its chops, ready to pounce and prick the bubbles lies Iran. If they achieve the bomb and attack, it will be doomsday.
But it’s not going to happen. Iran will not use the bomb to destroy Israel because they know that Israel has second strike capability. Israel has nuclear-armed submarines lurking in the Indian Ocean aimed at Iran’s cities. Read more…

Are Arab nurses taking over in Israel?

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

By J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida — Thirty or forty years ago, at a time when women were beginning to break out of the traditional female occupations of teaching and nursing, a book promoter had a cute idea. She would ask a writer to query high school seniors on their career ambitions and publish the results.
The writer found one significant difference between Jewish and non-Jewish girls. The Christians still chose nursing as their first choice. The Jews placed nursing at the bottom of their list.
Cleaning bedpans was not the advice that Jewish mothers passed on to their daughters. They would rather be engineers. The non-Jews were satisfied with engineers in the second place of their choice list. Nursing still claimed first place.
I wonder whether the same fact of Jewish girls shunning nursing in favor of hi-tech start-ups holds true in the Jewish state.
I ask this question because of what I learned at Chautauqua from Maram Higazi a 21-year-old Moslem nursing student at the Hadassah nurse’s school in Jerusalem.
Maram is a resident of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the Oasis of Peace, where she attended the primary school I built twenty years ago. Together with a Jewish boy who had graduated the school, they were invited to Chautauqua to talk about their unique village and the bilingual, bicultural, binominal primary school they had both attended.
Maram looks and dresses like an attractive American girl. But she is a devout Moslem who prays five times a day, she told me. She wears a traditional hijab to cover her hair only when she prays.
Her father is a doctor who heads the Department of Biochemistry at Hadassah. He is one of two Arabs who heads departments at the Hadassah Medical Center. He rises at 5  every morning to pray, she said.
Maram will enter her junior year at the Henrietta Szold nursing school next month. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing in  two years. And here is the surprise.
“Of the sixty girls in my class,” she said, “twenty-six are Arabs.”
The same proportion of Arabs to Jews holds true in the other three classes, she said. That is over 43 percent of the graduates of Hadassah’s nursing school will come from the Arab minority, who are, except for the residents of East Jerusalem, citizens of Israel.
Maram identifies herself as a Palestinian Israeli. She, and the village of Jews and Arabs in which she lives, are the best answers to the bigoted American Jews who identify all Moslems with anti-Israel suicide bombers.
Maram says that she finds it wonderful that so many American Jews  have such a strong attachment to Israel despite  the fact that many have never been there.
One Chautauquan took it for granted that Maram and the Jewish boy, Omar Schwartz, were traveling together as a couple. She was quickly disabused. Omar keeps kosher. He refused to eat meat while he was in Chautauqua.
Many years ago, an Arab mayor of the village explained to me that  because they live together and are close friends as they grow up, they cling to their own ethnicity and religion.
Unlike American schools where interdating and intermarriage are common, there has never been a romance between Jewish and Arab graduates of the Lurie school at the Oasis of Peace.
I will leave further details to the sociologists. They must also look into the question of why so many Jewish girls are avoiding the honorable profession of nursing.
Maram chose to be a nurse, she said, because it combined her love of science and her desire to work with people.
It was a pleasure for me to listen to these two kids chattering in Hebrew. “My Hebrew is better than his Arabic,” Maram explained. Both speak perfect English with an American accent.
They are a credit to Israel and their village and to the school which I built.

Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida.  His column appears in The Jewish Journal of South Florida

The religion of Barack Hussein Obama

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

 By J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

DEL RAY BEACH, Florida–President Obama’s religious affiliation is in the news  again.  The Moslem fingerprints on his early life were prominently  displayed  during the 2008 primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton and in  the election against John McCain.

 The voters paid no attention but some Jewish bloggers made a  big  stink about Obama being a closet Moslem.  The reply of Jewish voters was to give Obama a greater majority than any previous president.
Now that the relations between Obama’s Administration and the  right-wing government of Israel are a bit  strained the Jewish  bloggers are  at it again.  This time they have the evidence of the  Foreign Minister of  Egypt Ahmed Aboul Gheit.  Mr. Gheit is alleged to  have said on Egyptian TV  that in a conversation with Obama, the President said that he was really a  Moslem and that he had half-brothers in Kenya who were Moslems.
Hosni Mubarak’s foreign minister would have to be an idiot to  say anything derogatory about Barack Obama on public TV.  But assuming the  story is true, what are the facts about Obamas religion?
President Obama was born in 1961 in Honolulu to Ann Dunham of  Wichita, Kansas and Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a black Moslem student from  Kenya.
His parents were divorced when Obama was two years old.   His father left  for Connecticut and then returned to Kenya where he married  again and had five sons and a daughter.  There is no evidence that Obama  Sr. played any role in the life of Obama Jr.
Barack Hussein Obama Jr. spent his early formative years in  Hawaii with his mother and stepfather, a Moslem from Indonesia named  Soetro.   When Barack was six years old, Mr. Soetro lost his residence permit and the family, which included a younger half-sister, moved to Jakarta in  Indonesia.
From age 6 to 10 Barack Obama attended public schools in  Jakarta.  A  school registration has been unearthed for Barry Soetro, a  Moslem.
Obviously dissatisfied with the Jakarta schooling, at age 10,  his  mother shipped the boy to her mother in Kansas.  The President has  credited his grandmother with playing the key role in his upbringing.  From  Kansas schools to Harvard to Chicago to the United States Senate  and finally the  White House, he was a black American of the Christian faith.  He has always  belonged to a church.  He was married in a church and his children were  baptized.
So how come the President and the Egyptian Foreign Minister  were  discussing Moslem affiliations?  The Egyptian might have brought up  the Moslem dictum:  Born to a Moslem father you remain a Moslem all your  life.
This contrasts with the Jewish religion.  Born to a  Jewish mother you  remain a Jew in your life.  The rabbis have found an  escape clause.  If you convert to another religion, you cease to be a  Jew.
Hitler did not recognize conversions.  He looked upon the  Jews as a race and not a religion.
I am unaware that the Moslems have a similar clause.  Nor  was Obama  ever converted.  His mother and his grandmother considered him to  be a Christian from birth.
Does his Moslem biological father have any effect on his  actions on the Israel Palestinian dispute?  Not in the slightest.
I wouldnt care if Obama used the Lincoln room to touch his  forehead to the floor in Moslem prayer five times a day.  To paraphrase Ben Gurion what counts is what he does, not to whom he prays.
Here is what he does.  His first step into the Mideast  cauldron was  to appoint George Mitchell, who brought peace to Ireland, as his   special envoy to the Palestine-Israel conflict.  Next he appointed  Rahm  Emanuel, whose father fought the British to achieve a Jewish state, as his chief  of staff. His chief strategist, David Axelrod, is also  Jewish.
Last month Rahm Emanuel took his daughter to Israel for her  Bat Mitzvah.  While there he invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to  the White House.  The state visit occurred July 6.
Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had powerful  Jewish  backers in her fight for the presidency.

 She has been instrumental in securing a ten-month freeze on  construction of settlements.  Although every  President has opposed the settlements, this is the first time that Israel was  pressured  into agreeing to a freeze since Jimmy Carter got Menachem Begin to agree to a freeze during the Camp David negotiations.  That freeze lasted  three months.
The proximity talks now going on under George Mitchell are the  crowning achievement of the Obama Administration.  Mitchell has held   several meetings devoted to solving Israels security needs.
Israel says that its security will depend on its continued  control of  the West Bank’s Eastern border.  To me, a Zionist, who is  familiar with Israel’s problems, this is an understandable request.   Secretary of State Clinton  must look at the question differently.  How can  a sovereign state  allow a former enemy to control its frontier?
This is the type of question that the talks under George  Mitchell must solve.  Next is defining the permanent frontiers of the two  states, Israel and Palestine, including the division of East Jerusalem.   Then there is the question of Tel Aviv’s water which comes mostly from West Bank  aquifers.   Then there is the perennial question of the 1948 refugees and  many other minor questions.
George Bush ignored these complex questions, allowing Israel  to continue the evil occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Barack Obama  will do his best to achieve two states living side by side in peace and  security. The question of his Moslem father is a red herring that is  beginning  to stink.


Lurie is a freelance writer based in Del Ray Beach.  His articles appear regularly in the Jewish Journal of South Florida.

Interior kicks them out, Tel Aviv welcomes them

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By J. Zel Lurie

J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida–The Israel government’s Ministry of Interior has been a semi-independent Orthodox principality under both Labor and Likud cabinets for 60 years. David Ben Gurion’s mistake was to take them into his government to stave off his leftist opposition.
The Ministry, run by the Shas party with 11 percent of the Knesset,  does what it pleases. It handles many aspects of the lives of the majority of the population including  the population registry. It takes on many functions of other minstries such as  housing for Orthodox from the Ministry of Housing and  watching the borders together with customs and police.
It has also supplanted the Municipality of Jerusalem in ordering the bulldozing of Arab homes in East Jerusalem. It doesn’t consult other cabinet members before taking action, often leaving the prime minister to pick up the pieces.
In recent months  the Ministry made news with the following actions:
1. Welcomed Vice  President Joe Biden to Jerusalem with the announcement that it would build a new neighborhood in East Jerusalem called Ramat Shlomo. Biden was angry. Secretary of State Clinton was furious. In the resulting brouhaha Prime Minister Netanyahu was forced to extend the freeze on new construction in settlements to East Jerusalem.
2. The Ministry spat in the face of the Palestine Authority by refusing to allow the famous American iconoclast, Prof. Noam Chomsky,to cross Allenby Bridge en route  to the Palestinian Bir Zeit University where he was to deliver two lectures. The Prime Minister’s office was forced to apologize. Prof. Chomsky was not entering Israel and he should not have been stopped at Allenby Bridge said Mark Rogev, the government spokesman.
Prof. Chomsky delivered his lectures by video, He then dissipated much of the outrage in academic circles by calling on Israel’s active  enemy, the Hezbollah chief in Lebanon.
3. Declared war on the children of illegal foreign workers. Minister of Interior Eli Yishai ordered them separated from their parents and deported to their native lands. This was too much for the Israeli public and Minister Yishai agreed to postpone action until the end of the school year.
I had my own run in with the Ministry some 30 years ago. I rescued a young British girl, who had been living illegally in Rosh Pina for five years, from the clutches of the Ministry.
All of the Rosh Pina officials were her friends. The  Rosh Pina rabbi sponsored her for conversion to Judaism. Strangely the ministry refused. They were on a campaign to rid the country of goyim who had overstayed their visas. The Chief of Police told her: “I’ve received an order to pick you up. Please go hide. Get out of my jurisdiction.”
She moved in with mutual friends in a nearby village and that is where I found her.
“For five years I have been living as a Jew in Rosh Pina,” she told me. “I celebrated all the Jewish holidays. Now I want to convert and they won’t let me.”
I figured that I could use my press connections to help her. Telling her story might  shame the Ministry to reverse course. I was right.
The novelist  Yoram Kaniuk was writing a column for Maariv. I asked him to write a column about her. But first he had to get the Ministry’s side of the story.
As soon as the Ministry heard that the press was interested they decided to admit her to a religious kibbutz to study for conversion. Kaniuk never wrote a column.
Thirty years later I had dinner with her. She is now Jeanette Cohen, married to a British immigrant. She is in charge of security for the kibbutz of Amiad and she is a volunteer border cop that patrols the Northern frontier. A son is in the Army. Altogether a model citizen.
Today there are over a thousand children of illegal foreign workers. They are registered in government schools and so are easier to deal with than their parents. Minister Eli Yishai devised the devious plan to deport the children and he hoped the parents would follow.
The brutality of attacking children and separating families aroused the press and public. Yishai backtracked. He agreed to wait until the end of the school year and he appointed an interministerial committee to recommend future action.
Etta Prince-Gibson, editor of the Jerusalem Report, tells the heart-breaking story of one child whom she calls Kimberly.
Kimberly was born in Tel Aviv 15 years ago to a young black maid from Ghana who got herself pregnant. Kimberly’s native language is Hebrew. She has never been to Ghana. On the basis of her excellent grades she was admitted to a prestigious Tel Aviv high school.
She is active in the scouts. She is a prominent member of a scout unit that  will travel to Europe this summer. Kimberly will have to stay home. She has no passport. She told Prince-Gibson:
“A few weeks ago we celebrated Passover in the school. It symbolizes freedom, liberty for everyone. Everton is happy that we have a Jewish state, a homeland. But why can’t I be a part of it?”
Jeannette Cohen succeeded to become a part of it with my help. Who will help Kimberly?
Contrasting with the Ministry of Interior is the Tel Aviv Municipality which believes that Israel needed the foreign workers for health care, farm work and construction. They may have overstayed their Ministry of Interior visas but they are now part of Tel Aviv’s multicultural society.
Under the heading: “Through Books, Tel Aviv Offers Welcoming Island to Illegal Workers Who Share the City”
the Forward of June 4 tells the story of the library opened for foreigners in Levinsky Park in South Tel Aviv where most of the illegal workers have congregated.
The library was the initiative of an artists cooperative named ArtTeam. It was welcomed by the Tel Aviv Municipality which provided the space in the park and $6,500 for operating expenses. Opened in October, it has 4,000 books in many languages on the shelves and 2,000 more still in boxes. Most were flown into Israel free by El Al. Recently books in Hebrew were added because the children were demanding them. The Forward reporter found children from Nepal, the Philippines and Ghana chattering in Hebrew.  All of them, like Kimberly, had been born in Tel Aviv.
The volunteer librarians can’t understand the titles of many of the books on the shelves. Recently, the Forward relates, one of the librarians found by chance that she was handling the Nepalese translation of Mein Kampf, which had been included in the shipment from Katamandu. Hitler’s anti-Semitic tract was quickly expunged.
The struggle continues. The Hebrew speaking children at the library in care still under the threat of deportation by the Ministry of Interior.


Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida.  His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida.

Amb. Oren: Obama ranks with Truman for Israel

May 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–His Excellency Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, hosted a dinner recently for leaders of the Democratic Party. Guest of honor was Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Among the Democratic big shots attending was Marc R. Stanley, a Texas attorney and founding chairman of the Democratic Jewish Council.
We are indebted to Mr. Stanley for his report in the Huffington Post of Ambassador Oren’s remarks at the dinner.
The ambassador could not sing praise for Obama any higher. He  ranked Obama with President Harry Truman, who overrode his Secretary of  State in 1948 to recognize the newly born Israel, and with President Richard Nixon, who instituted an airlift to supply Israel during the Yom Kippur war.
Ambassador Oren blasted those who have been falsely attacking Obama for partisan advantage. His message has slowed the barrage  of anti-Obama diatribes which have filled the internet lately, including Alan Dershowitz, Ronald Lauder and Ed Koch.
The ambassador told a shocking story of an imagined snub of Netanyahu by Obama which many Israelis believe. Here is what really happened.
When Netanyahu was in Washington in March, he and Ambassador Oren and an entourage of experts called on Obama for a business meeting which lasted into the night.

At a business meeting, the ambassador related, the visiting head of state is not ceremoniously met under the portico. Reporters are not called out of the press room and there are no photo-ops.
Netanyahu and his party  entered the White House through the business entrance. They talked with Obama and other officials for several hours and after the president had retired they were given the rare privilege, the ambassador reported, of staying in the White House to finish their work.
Ambassador Oren described how shocked he was when he woke the next morning to find the Israel press had large headlines on the “vicious snub” that their prime minister had suffered at the White House, how he had been snuck in via a back door and how reporters and photographers had been forbidden.
Meanwhile, concludes the Israeli envoy,  “President Obama is working relentlessly to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to promote peace in Israel.”
Peace in Israel, as most Israelis have recognized, depends on achieving a two-state solution. And a two-state solution depends on the success of the proximity talks that have begun under the aegis of George Mitchell.
Most Israelis believe that proximity talks are second best to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. As sop to the Israelis, the State Department, in its May 9 announcement of the beginning of the proximity talks said that they would lead to direct talks.
Peace between Israel and Palestine will not happen without deep sacrifices by both parties. These difficult compromises will come easier in three-way proximity talks than in face-to-face dirrect talks,
Direct talks, which have always been Israel’s preference, will come eventually but not for many many months. Not until George Mitchell and his boss, Hillary Clinton, and her boss Barack Obama, are convinced that Mitchell and Netanyahu and Mitchell and Abbas, have solved all the insoluble core issues, borders, Jerusalem and refugees.
Mitchell will not be just shuttling between the parties as the New York Times put it. Mitchell will be discussing, arguing, putting forth new ideas and bridging proposals to both parties.
The talks will continue into 2011 and possibly into 2012. Success will help elect Obama to a second term.
But success will depend on both parties refraining from what the State Department called “significant actions” that would seriously undermine trust and endanger the talks.
Palestine Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has already said that he will refrain from announcing a Palestine State in August of next year as he had planned. But Netanyahu has not as yet announced that the ten month freeze will be extended.
It will come. Meanwhile Obama has asked Congress for another $200 million for Israel to help them deploy the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Israel’s security depends on averting possible missiles from Iran and its agents, Hezbolla and Hamas.
As Mr. Anthony quoted Ambassador Oren: “The friendship between the United States and Israel remains rock solid.”


Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida.  His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida.

Obama’s policy on Israel is 30 years old plus

May 7, 2010 1 comment

By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida– A Likud friend from Tel Aviv called  me the other day. He was in New York for a family wedding and he wanted to talk about Obama.
“Obama doesn’t understand Israelis,” he began. “Everything he does strengthens Lieberman.”  That is Avigdor Lieberman, the racist foreign minister of Israel whose Russian-based party received 12 percent of the Knesset seats.
“Obama’s policies are no different than his predecessors,” I said. “Israelis and many American Jews have very short memories.”
I reminded my Likud friend that I had come to see him 30 years ago after receiving a dressing down from a Political Officer at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.
“You are using our money.” said the American official, “to build settlements  which we strongly disapprove.”
I had grimaced. “What’s more,” he went on, “these settlements are designed to be obstacles to peace.”
When I repeated this conversation to my Revisionist (which morphed into Likud) friend  he had  laughed. “He’s right,” he said, “and we will continue to build settlements and America won’t do a thing about it.”
His prediction was correct. At the time there were only  a few settlements. Today the West Bank is covered with over 150 settlements and outposts with a population of over a quarter million Jews.
But only one President took any action besides diplomatic protests. President George H. W. Bush ordered   the estimated amount that Israel had spent on settlements withheld from loan guarantees for Israel of several billion dollars.  As I recall the loan guarantees were reduced by about $300 million.
This was a rather meaningless gesture, but it was still a gesture which had angered AIPAC, its congressional supporters and leading American Jewish organizations.
All of the presidents for over thirty years had screamed and hollered in a diplomatic fashion. Various Israeli governments had been  experts at making promises to mollify the American administrations. The promises were never kept.
Here are two examples. Eight years ago Israel promised George Bush that they would limit settlement expansion. They agreed that Israeli experts would sit down with American Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer and draw a map of the settlements. No such map was ever drawn and settlements continued to expand.
After Ambassador Kurtzer retired to Princeton in 2006, I asked him what action he had taken on Israel’s failure to provide a map of the settlements.
“I reported it to the State Department,” he replied curtly.
A second example is the Roadmap to a Palestine State which George Bush had issued a few years ago, after a long delay, in the name of the Quartet, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the Russian Federation.
In the first step of the Roadmap, Israel agrees to freeze settlements and the Palestinians agree to end all violence. Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat signed up. Very little was done.
Obama is different, He has revived the Roadmap and demands action. That is what angers the Orthodox/Russian/Settlement coalition that is currently ruling Israel. Reports to the State Department will no longer be buried. Obama is persistent. His predecessors were not.
Obama’s first action as president was to appoint a special envoy to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together. He chose George Mitchell, who negotiated the end of the civil war in Ireland.
It took Mitchell several years of slow and persistent negotiations with warring Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. The Israeli/Palestinian negotiations are just as complex, if not more complicated, with Hamas biding its time in the wings.
I believe that Mitchell is working on a two-year frame. His progress is slow but he is persistent. Like the White House.
His boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, clearly stated the position of the Obama Adminisration last February. She said:
“Our position is that settlement activity is illegitimate and that final resolution of borders has to be worked out that will give both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the secure borders that they deserve to have.”
This is a noble ambition and it is George Mitchell’s goal.
Israelis have not fully comprehended what is happening and are railing against  B. Hussein Obama.
Ben Caspit wrote in Ma’ariv recently. “The Americans mean what they say. They will not let Netanyahu wink in all directions. It is not just Jerusalem, Bibi, it is all of the territories.”
It may take a few years of constant American pressure but eventually it will penetrate the Israeli conscious. Even my Likud friend in Tel Aviv will be happy with the emergence of a Palestine State that will guarantee mutual security to all Palestinians and Israelis.


Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida.  His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida.

Is East Jerusalem part of Israel’s capital?

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

 By J. Zel Lurie

DELRAY BEACH, Florida– Secretaryof State Hillary Rodham Clinton knows she’s right. The Israeli-Palestinian status quo is unsustainable, she told the large audience, greeted by some cheers, at the recent AIPAC conference in Washington. “New construction in East Jerusalem,” she continued, “undermines America’s unique ability to play a role — an essential role, I might add — in the peace process.” Scattered applause from part of the audience.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t admit she’s right. He knows that if he agrees completely he will lose his right-wing government. So he spars with Clinton for 43 minutes on the phone from Israel followed a few days later by 75 minutes at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington and a face to face talk with President Obama the next day.

Netanyahu sticks to a false demagogic slogan: “A Jew can build in Jerusalem as in Tel Aviv.” He knows that the major portion of East Jerusalem consists of a score of rural West Bank villages which we annexed to the Holy City in 1967. Looking at East Jerusalem from the sky you see a town of two story houses sprawling over hill and valley. It is surrounded on the East by the walled Old City and to the North and South by hi-rise apartment houses on wide streets. These Jewish neighborhoods were built on Palestinian-owned land. To continue to build on them, as Netanyahu demands, would, in Clinton’s opnion, be a provocation that would harm the proximity talks.

To the West is the large Jewish city of Jerusalem, the true capital of Israel, which Netanyahu talked about at the AIPAC conference.The aura of the capital does not cover East Jerusalem where the Palestinians are NOT citizens of Israel. Netanyahu says that a Jew can build in (East) Jerusalem like in Tel Aviv. The reality is that a Palestinian can build legally in Tel Aviv but he can’t get a permit to enlarge his house for his married son in his native village of Beit Hanina or Umm Tuba or Issawiya which are among the many villages that were annexed to East Jerusalem in 1967.

In the forty-odd years since 1967 no zoning plan was established for the rural villages in East Jerusalem which were suddenly urbanized. Very few building permits were handed out so thousands of two-story homes were built illegally. Right wing Mayor Nir Barkat threatend to demolish all illegally built homes. Clinton called Netanyahu and this threat against thousands of Palestinian homes was scotched. Netanyahu’s reining in the Jerusalem mayor under American pressure proves that Bibi gives in up to a point.

Let’s look at the record. Under pressure, Netanyahu reluctantly accepted the two-state solution. Under constant pressure to stop new Jewishsetttlement construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem he finally agreed on a ten month settlement freeze on the West Bamk excluding Jerusalem. Who knows how far he will go in the proximity talks without losing his government.

I do know that the right wing ministers enjoy the money and privileges of government so they tolerate Bibi’s concessions to Clinton but they won’t let him go all the way. Still, Clinton has definitely ended the George Bush era of a tolerant bystander. “We can’t want peace more than the parties do,” is no longer our policy. We want peace. The lack of peace is harming both Arabs and Jews and is responsible for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan say American generals. The status quo is unsustainable. Therefore, says Hillary Clinton, we will take an active role in the proximity talks.

Four out of five American Jews support this policy according to a J Street poll. A good portion of the AIPAC crowd also supports it. AIPAC was scheduled to choose as its new president last week a 53 year old wealthy Chicagoan who served on Obama’s Finance Committee. The pro-settlement people who have run AIPAC for years are now quiescent. Israel is divided between the pro-settlemnt government and the majority of the population. A poll published two weeks ago by Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest daily, found that 64 percent of the people say that the government does not represent them.

When this column appears in print I will be part of that Israeli majority. I will have celebrated the Seder with both my daughters, my four grandkids, including my seven month pregnant Israeli granddaughter, my 6-year-old great grandson. I’m returning to Delray Beach in mid-April.


Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida.  His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida

Setting up a Family of Abraham in Hebron

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida–Who is Abraham?  Who is the God of Abraham?  How are Jews, Christians and Moslems related to Abrham and his God?
These are questions which the people at the Chautauqua Institution in Upstate New York grapple with every summer. Christians and Jews and Moslems with additions of a few Hindus, Buddhists and agnostics like myself, gather under the aegis of the ten-year-old Abrahamic Program of the Department of Religion.
For ten years we have listened to each other under the slogan of conversation with no intention of conversion. In fact a week or two at Chautauqua’s 9-week summer program strengthens my faith in the wisdom of my work for peace in the Middle East.
The prospectus of the Abrahamic Program has a much larger vision, a great vision which has yet to be achieved. The vision is for a group of American Christians, Jews and Moslems to live together  as a Family of Abraham, while worshiping the same God in their own way. The intention has been that if such a community can be set up in Chautauqua, then “that model can be lifted up throughout the world.” A beautiful dream, isn’t it?

Let me take that dream to its ultimate conclusion. A Family  of Abraham in Abraham’s home town, Hebron,  which the Arabs call El Khalil, our friend.
Hebron is a sea of hate. In the center of a bustling  city of over 150,000 Moslems about 800 fanatical Jews have been planted. They are led by disciples of  terrorist Meir Kahane and protected by a couple of Israeli battalions. The city is  centered on a 2,200-year-old building which is known in Hebrew as the Caveof the Patriarchs and in Arabic as the Ibrahimi Mosque. Built by Herod in the first century before Christ and constantly modified by the Crusaders, the Moslems and the Israelis in that order, it still retains its Herodian core.
Herod built it over the Cave of Makhpela, where according to Genesis Abraham buried Sarah and where he was buried by his sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Tradition added Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. Herod  built six rooms around a central courtyard above the cave.  with six tombs representing the bodies below.  Israeli archeologists did not find any bones in the cave. Ancient cave robbers had cleaned them out.
Herod’s  memorial became the Mosque of Ibrahim after the Arab conquest. The Crusaders turned it into the Cathedral of St. Abraham. Sladin restored it to theMoslems, and so it becdame the Ibrahami Mosque at the end of the twefth century.
Jews, who lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, were not allowed to enter the building. They were permitted to climb seven steps of an exterior stairway, which has since been destroyed. At the seventh step they could face tHerod’s wall and recite their prayers.

So it remained exclusively Moslem under the Turks, the British Mandate, and Jordan until the Isaelis conquered the West Bank of Jordan in 1967 and the Chief Chaplain, Major-General Rabbi Shlomo Goren walked in. Rabbi Goren decided that Jews could establish a synagogue in the room devoted to Isaac and Rebecca. For large congregations the Jews could use the central courtyard. And so it became the only building in the world in which Jews and Moslems prayed in their own faiths at different times. Until 1994. In that year an American-born physician, Baruch Goldstein, carrying two automatic rifles, invaded Moslems at prayer and shot scores, killing 29.
The Israel Army closed the building for over a year and remodeled it,  partitioning the building between Jews and
Arabs as the United Nations had done to Palestine in 1947.
A couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instigated a minor riot by  proclaiming  the Cave of the Pariarchs/Ibhammi Mosque to be the second most important Jewish shrine. The first is the surviving Western Wall of the Temple of Herod.
Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if next summer a group of Christians, Jews and Moslems at Chauauqua established a Family of Abraham and travelled together to Hebron to hold ecumenical services in Herod’s courtyard.
A secular Family of Abraham was set up over thirty years ago in the Judean Hills . Called in Hebrew and Arabic the Oasis of Peace no one ever tied it to an Abrahamic Family but that is what it is. Sixty Arab and Jewish families, all of them citizens of Israel live together and maintain educational institutions and a pluralistic spiritual center.
On the Oasis of Peace, I built the first bilingual, bicultural school in Israel for equal numbers of Jewish and Arab students. A product of the school, who is now  attending Brandeis University,  will be in New York City on April 6. If you would like to meet her contacct


Lurie is a freelance writer based in Florida.  His articles appear in the Jewish Times of Southern Florida

Mideast negotiations now would be waste of time

February 16, 2010 1 comment

By J. Zel Lurie
DELRAY BEACH, Florida (Press Release)–One might think Israel and the Arabs fought wars so that someone could be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize at its conclusion.  Between 1950 and 1994, seven men received the Peace Prize for making peace in the Middle East.
To this startling number Barack Obama might be added. He received the prize as a potential for peace maker Meanwhile he has  added 30,000 men and women to the war in Afghanistan and the promised withdrawal from Iraq is yet to be fulfilled.
Despite the plethora of peace prizes and Obama’s wishes there won’t even be peace negotiations for many a month.

There is no peace between Palestine and Israel but there are lots of articles and reports and think tank studies and demands that Obama take action.
What can Obama do?  Nothing between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.  The two parties decided long ago that negotiations now would be a complete waste of  time.
The reason is fairly simple. Abbas represents only half of Palestine. The other half, the Gaza Strip, is ruled by  force by an Islamic terrorist group named Hamas. Abbas would lose his bare majority on the West Bank if he tried to negotiate on behalf of both the the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu has reluctantly accepted the world consensus that eventually there will be a Palestine State on the 22 percent of Palestine left to them after the War of Independence. The settlement blocs, which are actually suburbs and exurbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, will be swapped for barren territory elsewhere.
The postponement of negotiations to some future date gives Netanyahu time to consolidate the area he intends to hold and to rein in the more radical settlers who will be forced to move in the final status agreement.
Hamas is enjoying the status quo. It pays its large government  staff  with funds supplied by Iran. The Gaza people, more than a million, are hungry but not starving. They are being fed by the humanitarian aid which Israel allows to pass through the gates,
Meanwhile the majority of West Bankers who live in the cities are prospering. Law and order is maintained by an efficient new American-trained Palestine police force. The Israel Army enters the cities only after midnight to arrest or kill individuals pinpointed by intelligence as past or potential terrorists.
But Palestinian farmers and shepherds continue to be harassed by Jewish settlers assisted by the Army.
Obama  has directed his special Mideast envoy George Mitchell to devote his attention towards Israel making peace with Syria. Bashir Assad has been making peaceful noises. An arrangement for the Golan Heights is a distinct possibility. Bashir and Binyamin are slated to  add to the plethora of Nobel Peace awardees.
I am indebted to my colleague, Rachel Patron, for reminding me that my friend, Ralph Bunche, had won the Nobel Peace Prize sixty years ago in 1950 for mediating the armistice agreements with the four Arab states surrounding Israel. First with Egypt, which announced its agreement in January 1949. It was followed by Lebanon, then Jordan and finally Syria. All four were signed, sealed and delivered before the end of 1949.
The rapidity of the successful four negotiations conducted by Dr. Bunche have never been repeated in the sixty years of wars and negotiations.
General Moshe Dayan, who was Israel’s military expert at the armistice talks in Rhodes wrote in a memoir that the most significant breakthroughs occurred while shooting pool with the black American.
Dr. Bunche was the son of a barber who died at an early age. He was brought up by his grandmother who looked white but had been born in slave quarters. He had graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, which he had attended on an athletic scholarship.
He had done a doctorate at Harvard and had gone on to a successful career at the State Department, In 1947 President Truman appointed him Assistant Secretary of State but he turned it down because of discriminatory housing in Washington. He was seconded to the United Nations in New York.
I ran into him at the UN on November 29 1947 just after the the Jews had won a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver and other members of the Jewish Agency executive were celebrating victory by drinking a lehayim. I was handling publicity under Sy Kenan for the Agency and covering the Assembly for the Palestine Post.
Dr. Bunche was not smiling. “We won a Jewish state,” I said, “Yes you did,” he acknowledged and he looked at me soberly before passing on.
Now the trouble begins, he must have been thinking, but he couldn’t have imagined that the troubles would be followed by Nobel Peace Prizes.
First to Dr. Bunche in 1950. Then to Lester Pearson of Canada in 1957 for mediating the 1956 war over Suez. Henry Kissinger who mediated the 1973 Yom Kippur war was ignored by the Nobel peace committee but after Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty in 1977, the two heads of state were awarded the prize in 1978. The Nobel committee  should have included the American head of state, Jimmy Carter, who had visited the Middle East several times to knock their heads together.
Last but not least were the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians signed in 1993  on the White House lawn with Bill Clinton by Yassir Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
None of them had been to Oslo to negotiate the agreement. But all three showed up in 1994 to receive the Nobel prize for peace.

Lurie is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida